Saturday, June 30, 2007

Yo Brown!

REUTERS/Brian Snyder; caption

One family does its best to deal with the disturbing news from Britain.

UPDATE: Apparently keeping Bush in touch during one of his bike rides requires another person on the ride who carries a cellphone and yells any news to him.

[more here, including remarkable fishing attire from Miss Barbara Bush]


It's not clear that certain people understand that it's not that easy to make a gas cannister explode.

[which is consistent with earlier behaviour]

The coastal enclave

AFP/Glenn Campbell; caption

Among the many pathologies of the American Right is that they've never forgiven New York City -- liberal New York City -- for being the victim of the nation's worst terrorist attack, on 9/11. This resentment surfaces in various ways, but one common vehicle for it is a comparison with London when a terrorism attack occurs in the latter city. Examples are found of a supposed sang-froid in London and implicitly or explicitly set against more hysterical or trivial behaviour in New York.

They were doing it during the 7-7 and 21-7 events two years ago and now they're at it again 1. Witness this idiotic post on Wired's techbiz blog. A Tale of Two Cities. Photos of the iPhone opening-day frenzy in New York juxtaposed against London photos of coverage of the Piccadilly plot. Silly consumerist New Yorkers versus Blitz-hardened Londoners. Geddit? And if there's any doubt about what the Wired post intends, it gets the tell-tale link from Glenn Reynolds.

So how stupid is this? iPhones went on sale in other cities besides New York. At some point they'll go on sale in London and the scene will be exactly the same -- even if there could on the same day be a terrorist attack in some other city in the world. In addition, the Piccadilly bombs didn't actually explode. No one got killed. And people in London are carrying on, like, doing stuff, even as the coverage of the bomb plot unfolds. See the Wimbledon revellers above. But perhaps Wired and Glenn Reynolds think that the champagne drinkers are just another example of tough Londoners. Or visiting New Yorkers? When the only angle is political, the possibilities are endless.

UPDATE: By the way, here's someone else engaged in idle pursuits while the UK deals with terrorism.

1. We need a link for the 2005 claim, but if memory serves us right, Andrew Sullivan was playing that game. (read & scroll)

Friday, June 29, 2007

A&E's main clients

Among the flaws in the apparent Haymarket bomb plot was its assumption that the scene outside a London nightclub would be nice and quiet, with little chance of there being emergency personnel around dealing with other matters. How many pubs/nightclubs has this bomber been to?

UPDATE: Indeed, a second flaw in the apparent Haymarket bombplot was its assumption that an illegally parked car would not quickly come to the attention of traffic wardens. How many times had this bomber actually parked a car on a London street? --

The first device, also planted in a Mercedes, was discovered by chance when an ambulance crew working in the area noticed smoke coming from the car shortly before 2am.

Around half an hour later traffic wardens issued a ticket to the second Mercedes on Cockspur Street and arranged for it be be towed to the holding car park near Hyde Park.

Revenge served lukewarm

There is one crucial detail missing from this otherwise comprehensive New York Times story detailing the response of the United Nations Development Programme to charges that its aid program in North Korea has wasted money -- charges at least partially based, it seems, on fabricated documents.

Because the head of that program, Ad Melkert, has been in the sights of the neocons arising from his role as chairman of the World Bank's ethics committee when the dodgy Paul Wolfowitz deal went down (e.g. this tirade from, who else, Christopher Hitchens). Indeed many of the neocons believe that Melkert was the source of leaks to the media, and have made him the scapegoat for Wolfie's own lapses in judgement. Incidentally, Wolfie's new job is with the American Enterprise Institute. Birds of a feather.

Incidentally, the same grudge against the UNDP is evident in the emerging neocon War on Browns, triggered by Gordon's appointment of Mark Malloch Brown, former UNDP head, to a ministerial role (see also Mark Steyn).

A slight gain for free speech

It's going to take better legal expertise than we have to sort out this out, but it looks like one positive outcome of the Monica Leech imbroglio is that the Republic of Ireland now has the "Reynolds defence" available to defendants in libel actions -- thus removing the irony of an Irish Prime Minister having (through an ill-advised libel action) established that defence in English law.

Monica Leech sued the Irish Independent for simply reporting on a mischievous caller to a radio show who had suggested that she had offered favours normally attributed to another Monica in return for government consulting contracts from a particular Minister's department.

She lost the case, but will not get stuck with the costs of both sides (the usual practice in these cases) because the judge ruled that part of the proceedings benefitted the defendant (Irish Times, subs' req'd):

In a ruling earlier in the case, he [the judge] had found there is such a thing as a public interest defence in defamation proceedings. Such a defence could arise where the subject matter of a publication, considered as a whole, was a matter of public interest.

He also ruled there is a professional duty on journalists to seek out information that is of public interest and to impart it responsibly. The steps taken to gather the information must be responsible and fair and a court or jury must have regard to the practical realities of news gathering.

Which is very like the defence that the Sunday Times was allowed to use against Albert Reynolds: a story might be wrong (or at least not provably right) but it is not libelous as long as the publication uses careful methods and the subject is a public figure. There's just a chance that this might open the way for some edgier reporting as the country faces 15 years of the same government.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fight the hordes

The latest version of the US Immigration bill died in the Senate today. This leaves millions of Mexicans (and thousands of Irish) in immigration status limbo. One jubilant post from Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review's The Corner captures the forces at work in pressuring Senate Republicans to block the bill --

an enthusiastic kudos to Rush [Limbaugh] and Sean [Hannity] and Mark [Krikorian] and Laura [Ingraham] and Bill [Bennett] and Hugh [Hewitt] and Michelle [Malkin] and Mickey Kaus and Powerline and the Heritage Foundation

-- which, if one was drawing up a catalog of the loony right, would be an excellent list to start with. Among the ironies is that this same crowd will instantly pivot back to support any Bush policy predicated on the belief that "the west" is being "outbred" by Muslims -- having just helped defeat the addition of 12 million mostly Catholics to the legal population of the USA. The idea must be that 12 million are supposed to be breeding for freedom back in their own countries.

Even at The Corner though, there is a jarring note of insouciance in the victory celebrations, as former Maggie acolyte John O'Sullivan (and is anyone keeping track of the numer of Irish surnames in the anti-immigrant crowd?) who sends congratulations but notes ...

I have been cheering on from the sidelines of other obligations. (I'm writing this from Portugal)

Imagine the reaction from these people if someone prominent in favour of the immigration bill had been e-mailing in their thoughts from another country?

UPDATE: You can't parody the Corner. According to Mark Krikorian, the immigration bill itself was symbolic of the Muslim hordes --

It's just that they [pro-immigration bill] went from their usual tactics of piecemeal, behind-the-scenes victories, buried in appropriations bills and little-known courtrooms and bureaucratic offices, and tried to get the whole enchilada — trying to emulate something else that happened on June 28, the Turks' defeat of the Serbs at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, leading to Ottoman conquest of all southeastern Europe.

Yesterday's news

The great thing about a conspiracy theory is that any outcome can be reconciled with it since an outcome that on its face contradicts the theory is therefore evidence of an even deeper conspiracy. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" and all that.

Nevertheless it would be nice if the Wall Street Journal editorial page would at least take a run at explaining what the deeper conspiracy is in the light of the original conspiracy by George Soros, Mark Malloch Brown, and Gordon Brown to drive out Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank President and install Malloch Brown in his place -- possibly a long-awaited triangulation of Gordon Brown's gratitude to Soros for his run on sterling in 1992.

Because all that remains of that theory is the smooth installation of an American successor to Wolfowitz, and Malloch Brown's decision to become Gordon's Minister for Africa, Asia and UN (with a House of Lords appointment to facilitate this) -- and Soros out of the picture. It's amazing that they found the time to gang up on poor Wolfie with all this other career planning going on.

UPDATE: Speaking of Mark Malloch Brown, it's not clear that the National Review's K-Lo understands the distinction between his job and that of his boss, the actual Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bertie scoops the superpowers

Tony Blair's appointment as special envoy of the Israel-Palestine Quartet is not yet official, apparently due to stalling by the Russians, so a little embarrassment ensued at this morning's Number 10 briefing due to a comment from Bertie Ahern --

Put that Bertie Ahern had said this morning that the Prime Minister had confirmed with him that he had taken the job and that he expected it to be tricky, and could we [No. 10] confirm this, the [PM's Official Spokesman] replied that Bertie Ahern was someone with whom the Prime Minister had the utmost respect, but we had to wait for the outcome of the Quartet meeting instead.

It can't be judged from the briefing summary whether the spokesman's facial expression during the exchange confirmed his self-description as a "dour Ulsterman."

UPDATE: Blair's appointment is now official so Bertie's indiscretion only lasted a few hours. It came in an interview with RTE --

"I spoke to him about this on Friday night when he told me that he was going to take it ... He thinks, and I believe he is right, that if you have hands-on, persistent engagement you can make real progress,"

The new cockpit of Europe?

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal editorial page (subs. req'd) places the Republic of Ireland at the centre of its Eurosceptic opposition to the proposed EU amending treaty, aka the EU Constitution --

But the real drama here is the potential for Ireland to become a proxy battleground for the anti-Constitution types who are being shut out of the ratification processes in their own countries. Countries that decide to ratify the treaty in their parliaments can be considered settled; local politicians might rant and rave about the usurpation of their authority by Brussels, but in the end few are likely to muster a majority against the treaty. That could leave Ireland -- and perhaps Denmark or the Netherlands, which may yet decide to hold plebiscites -- as the last stand for those who think the treaty is being pushed undemocratically.

It seems a bit fanciful to think of Ireland as the scene of an electoral siege of Vienna where the future of Europe is played out. If the referendum fails, it's more likely to be done in by traditional domestic politics, such as might happen with a newly elected government already displaying enough signs of arrogance to irritate a pivotal middle ground in time for the referendum. Then there's the fact that Bertie Ahern, usually seen as Europhile, turns out to have been letting Tony Blair play lead blocker on his own stealth opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights -- a revelation that could alienate the potential Yes vote in a referendum.

An influx of foreign campaigners would certainly liven things up, although the country already has some experience with this as the various abortion referenda have attracted significant interest from outside the country. But it's more likely that Ireland will be keeping the WSJ happy with its tax policies than with any derailing of the European project.

Is it too much to hope for ...

... that The Sun puts some portion of their George Bush interview in or around Page 3?

UPDATE: The Sun's interview is actually over a month old.

There's a 1st time for everything

From an actual White House press release last evening --

Earlier today, in speaking about comprehensive immigration reform, President Bush misspoke.

They really must think that the immigration reform bill is the last substantive piece of legislation that he'll be able to advocate for and sign.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blair remainders

Apparently Arnold gave him a guitar. Details pending.

UPDATE 25 JULY: There's now confusion as it seems that the gift was an iPod and not a guitar.

That program is already running

Did Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole know, when he wrote today's column (subs. req'd) using Tony Blair's negotiated opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as an example of an awful thing that a Blairite Irish Labour party might do, that the Republic had already done exactly that in the treaty negotiations? Because in another Irish Times story, we read that --

But the draft mandate for the talks to finalise the legal text of the new treaty notes: "Two delegations reserved their right to join in the [ British] protocol."

It does not specifically name either state, but EU officials have said they are Ireland and Poland.

The protocols negotiated by British prime minister Tony Blair on the charter state: "The charter does not extend the field of application of Union law beyond the powers of the Union or establish any new power or task for the Union, or modify powers and tasks as defined by the treaties." It continues: "For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in the charter creates justifiable rights applicable to the UK except in so far as the UK has provided for such rights in its national law."

In a sense it makes his argument easier, in that a revived Irish Labour party could define itself by opposition to Blairism as Bertieism -- but that's a recipe that didn't work especially well in the last election. It does raise the interesting question of whether Labour -- and Fintan -- should therefore oppose the EU treaty when it comes to a referendum.

At least it's not in Manchester

It's another of those DIY blogging moments -- insert appropriate smart remark after the following story from Tuesday's Irish Times (subs. maybe req'd):

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has announced that the Government is to honour Tony Blair's "unique contribution to the improvement of British-Irish relations" by endowing a Chair of Irish Studies in his name at the University of Liverpool, writes Frank Millar , London Editor.

The announcement of the £5 million (€7.4 million) Tony Blair Chair in Irish Studies comes on the eve of the British prime minister's retirement from office. The endowment is to create the chair in perpetuity and provision for it will be made in the budget later this year.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Protest season

The Smithsonian Folklife festival begins later this week in Washington DC. One section is devoted to Northern Ireland (not Ulster). Perhaps inevitably, the selection of panelists has resulted in a row, although one which looks like it will blow over quickly. It concerns invitations to David Hume and Jonathan Mattison, historians from the Orange Order, although the Smithsonian is keen to note that the objections have originated from Catholic Irish-American groups and not from Northern Ireland itself.

The essential issue is whether the Orange Order is intrinsically an institution of bigotry. Its history and pronouncements don't make for encouraging reading in that regard but presumably the point of the peace process is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and judge on future behaviour rather than historical patterns. The Smithsonian hasn't changed its lineup and it's likely that nothing more will be heard about the affair unless there's an actual row at one of the panels.

UPDATE: In an echo of the bitterness that mention of the Orange Order can produce, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service today outlined the history of a weapon used to kill 5 Catholics in a betting shop; the gun was earlier surrendered to the police but then mysteriously came back in circulation among Loyalist paramilitaries when it was used for those murders. The murders were in turn were referenced in a "Five-Nil" chant by goons at an Orange Order parade past the site, an incident considered to be one of the early provocations in what was a fairly bleak marching season in the 1990s.

No trust

One little detail in the reporting of today's hotel bombing in Iraq, which has been described as killing key members of the al-Anbar Salvation Council, repeatedly cited by the US as an example of low locals are turning against al-Qaeda:

After the blast, a member of the Anbar Salvation Council said in the provincial capital of Ramadi that the sheiks meeting at the Mansour Hotel had been dropped from the council "because they did not continue working with us." He said they had been meeting secretly with government officials, about unspecified matters.

So the US-allied group had a serious and perhaps fatal split before this bombing. Not a great endorsement of the new strategy of picking local favourites.

Name the source

Since the gist of this bizarre correction ("Editor's Note") in today's New York Times is that the paper was given false information designed to hype up a supposed dissident crackdown in Iran, the NYT really should complete it and name their source, not least given the role of exiled opposition groups in hyping up the original bases of the current war in Iraq. Whether the source has any ties to "the new crazies" in the White House should also be explored.

UPDATE: Apparently the original (and now disappeared) photos were attracting unflattering detective work quite early on. See here, here, and here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Phantom, indeed

After being announced last December,

The surge of forces into Iraq is over. The surge of operations has begun, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq told Pentagon reporters in a teleconference today.

That would be yesterday, Friday 22 June. And, in the glorious tradition of Operation Together Forward, Operation Together Forward 2, Operation Imposing Law (never properly translated by the Pentagon from Fardh al-Qanoon), it's now called Operation Phantom Thunder.

So that noise from the sky doesn't actually mean anything?

UPDATE 5 SEPTEMBER: It's apparent with hindsight that the purpose of Operation Phantom Thunder was to provide a new start date for the Surge, thus allowing the argument that it hadn't yet enough time to be show results (of which there are none).

Sunday Suit

REUTERS/Osservatore Romano; caption

Note Tony Blair's demure suit for meeting Benedict compared to the garish ensemble worn for the EU Summit just a few hours beforehand. The apparel oft proclaim the man, but it's not clear what's being proclaimed in this case.

UPDATE: Via Slugger, Tony's gift to Benedict included a picture of the convert Cardinal Newman (who amongst his many activities was involved in the early days of University College Dublin).

Media Notes

A couple of things in today's New York Times of Irish relevance: a story from Galway about the water crisis (including quotes from sanguine tourists) and a more depressing account from Montclair NJ of the scene at the home of Ballyjamesduff man Thomas Reilly who, in the opinion of the police, drowned his 2 daughters before killing himself.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The medium is the message

Today's Wall Street Journal reports that (subs. may be req'd) Christopher Hitchens is minting it as a result of rapid sales of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The book is up to 7 times its original print run of 40,000 copies and Hitch looks set to make $1m from it. One hopes that somewhere in the book Hitch deals with his political hero's claim that "the desire for freedom is written in every human heart" but the success also reveals Hitch's talent for the media circus e.g. --

An estimated 1,000 turned out in Miami to listen to Mr. Hitchens challenge a panel that included an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist nun. "I now wish I hadn't participated," says Nathan Katz, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. "He was utterly abusive. It had the intellectual level of the Jerry Springer Show."

One does wonder if the book is his (highly lucrative) penance for the shambles in Iraq.

Bertie's Ark

Is anyone in a position of power in Ireland asking why it is that, in a country noted for rain, the place seems to experience so much flooding -- and not just anywhere, but near major roads in urban areas? Presumably the high-priced engineers and consultants designing new infrastructure have thought about things like flood plains, drainage, absorption and elevation, right?

Loss of interest

As this Le Monde article notes (only in French, unfortunately), there was a time when news of a Paris suburb consumed by "urban quasi-guerilla" warfare might have been news. But perhaps it's because the violence occurred between gangs following a rap concert, so not quite easily spun as France's latest run-in with Eurabian demographic terrorists, hence it's ignored. Or maybe President Sarko, tied up in post-election matters, didn't pay much attention so no one else did either.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Multiple Choice

Gordon Brown offered Paddy Ashdown the job of Northern Ireland Secretary because:

(a) he thinks things in NI are still dodgy, making someone with Bosnia credentials a good choice to keep things going

(b) he thinks the NI job is the most meaningless one in the Cabinet, and therefore suitable for a token gesture to the Opposition

(c) he's actually quite worried about the Liberals, at least as destination for disillusioned Labour voters, if not a rival for power, and saw this as a way to split them

(d) he's concerned about a perception that he and Ian Paisley might seem to get on too well and so wants a signal of independence in his on-the-spot man in Belfast

(e) all of the above

We vote for (c), with a smidgen of a mischievous sense of history by Gordon, who surely knows what the Irish question did to the Liberals in the past. A bit of closeted hostility to Blair's self-image as Gladstone?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wonderful magical animal

From Jonathan Freedland's Guardian column, an ill-chosen expression in a quote from an Israeli "insider" --

As that Israeli government insider puts it, "They'll [Gaza] understand that moderate policies bring home the bacon, while the other road brings only pain."

He forgot to say that the inflow of aid to the West Bank would help support more pork for the Palestinians.

Question inspired by corporate hotel room TV

Which is more annoying: the open loop background music (for weather, text headlines etc) on Sky News, BBC World, CNN, or Fox News? Our nomination is Sky.

UPDATE: For more serious air travel fun (and an episode with which we can identify having spent 3 of 4 days of a trip with no luggage), see the tale of Damien, his bags, and the revenge of the handlers.

FINAL UPDATE: Ireland being Ireland, the suits now have lawyers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


George Bush today, in a meeting that broke the 18 month ostracisation of Israeli PM Olmert -

It's interesting that extremists attack democracies around the Middle East, whether it be the Iraq democracy, the Lebanese democracy, or a potential Palestinian democracy.

Thus, the Iraqi Founding Fathers, installed by a US invasion, are equivalent to incumbent Lebanese government, a product of a sectarian division of power but itself the victim of an Israeli invasion last summer, and to Fatah, the corrupt former (?) terrorist organisation that lost a fairly-conducted election to Hamas, which was part of the government until the Palestinian president introduced the new system of two governments and no state.  It would be harder to find a better illustration of what happens when the GWOT meets the freedom agenda meets the unconditional US security guarantee to Israel.  And that's before any more crazy stuff happens in Pakistan.

Monday, June 18, 2007


On the road for a few days with bad Internet so posting may be light. Anyway, there's something about being in a place where the temperature never seems to below 40 Centigrade that seems to sap the blogging enthusiasm a bit. Though it does look like we picked a bad few days to be not paying attention to French politics.

Friday, June 15, 2007

One hopes he wants those sentences back

Sometimes the new "good" Andrew Sullivan gets in touch with his old "bad" Andrew Sullivan --

In fact, a smart withdrawal [from Iraq], if done with finesse, might conceivably undo some of the damage of the dumb occupation. But we also need to be cautious here. As soon as we get news of tribal alliances, we get news of tribal discord. This is Arab culture. They will support you one second and murder you in cold blood the next. And they will do exactly the same to one another.

One of those remarks that sounds about right over a gin and tonic at the club -- 60 years ago. Although Sully's old boss, Marty Peretz, probably agrees with the sentiment.

Revenge of the NatWest 3?

It'll be darkly funny if the US Department of Justice does decide to indict and then seek to extradite someone from the UK in connection with the alleged payments from BAE to Prince Bandar, because Tony Blair's eagerness to send UK citizens to the US for white collar prosecutions has already established all the relevant legal principles:

-- that the extradition can take place under anti-terror legislation even though the alleged crimes are financial in nature [NatWest 3, Ian Norris etc]

-- that US jurisdiction can arise from something as simple as a banking transaction in the US, even when most of the activity was abroad [NatWest 3: wire transfers and faxes crossed US territory]

-- that the US can keep redefining the indictment until it finds something that would also have been illegal in the UK when the activity took place, even though there was no explicit law outlawing the said practice at that time [Ian Norris case, where price fixing, not illegal in the UK when it allegedly took place, was redefined as "fraud"]

UPDATE 26 JUNE: It's official -- there will be a US Department of Justice probe of the BAE-Bandar deal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Jurisdiction through the bank transfers.

FINAL UPDATE 23 JULY: Having mentioned Ian Norris, a note on the latest twist in the affair: the government is considering new extradition rules, but their implementation will be delayed a year to allow cases in the pipeline to proceed under the old regimen -- even though the NatWest 3 and Norris would not be extraditable under the new rules. Norris still has a chance to make his case before the House of Lords.

You gave them the rug

The above is the illustration that accompanies Joe Lieberman's op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal about Iraq (subs. req'd; alt. free link). You're not missing anything by not reading it, because it's just Joe's usual line that the US is at war with al Qaeda and Iran in Iraq.

But the text and the illustration don't match, because in the latter it's Iran pulling the rug from under US troops, whereas the text is Joe accusing his former party colleagues in Congress of doing this. The omens for him returning to the party can't be good when he's equating them with the enemy.

The one point that Joe never grapples with is Iran can only do its rug-pulling because the US is standing on it. By having invaded Iraq. No invasion, no leverage for Iran -- or al Qaeda -- to do their thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rage is geometric

Today's Financial Times contains an op-ed by Gunnar Heinsohn of the University of Bremen. It would probably be attracting more attention if it wasn't behind subscription. Its provocative albeit sometimes implicit thesis is that the UN refugee arrangement for Palestinians has turned Gaza into a neo-Malthusian nightmare, where open-ended welfare support payments cause a high fertility rate, which eventually dissipates itself not in a famine but in a demographic bulge of idle young men who turn on each other.

The FT link has a teaser section before the pay window kicks in, so here's another bit from later down --

Had the people of the US multiplied at the same rate as the people of Gaza, the US would have gone from a population of 152m in 1950 to 945m in 2007 ... it would be home not to 31m males between the traditional fighting ages of 15 and 29, but to 120m. Faced with such a population explosion, would America's politicians and cultural organisations be able "to control their men in the streets?" ...

A western promise to support all children already born but to cut off from international welfare Palestinian children born after 1992 and simultaneously to stop new Israeli settlements should have been the first step of the Oslo process.

A complicated view, with something for everyone to complain about. One thing: if the Israel-Palestine crisis had been settled sooner, Gaza might have more sustained economic growth and thus could have managed a demographic transition -- the crisis has fed on itself. Gaza also lacks the cocktail of extractable resources and idle young men that fuels African conflicts for example.

Somewhere in the fury there has to be a role assigned to the trans-generational sense of being wronged that most Palestinians would feel. Which is not to claim that there's much justifiable about the current implosion in the territories.

War without end

There's been a slightly delayed reaction to an appeals court verdict in the al-Marri case that foreigners resident in the USA cannot be denied habeas corpus rights in the war on terror, but it seems to be getting into full swing today. The still-Murdoch-free Wall Street Journal devotes an editorial and an op-ed by Bradford Berenson (subs. req'd) to it, and one of the claims in the latter is --

The balance of judicial control of executive action during wartime can never be calibrated perfectly. As a nation, we used to err on the side of too much presidential power -- and victory. We knew that we could always correct our excesses and make amends for errors after the war was over and our Constitution and values were once again secure.

One reason that accommodation worked is because the war being over was an observable event. But as George Bush has said repeatedly --

Today's war on terror will not end with a ceremony, a surrender ceremony on a deck of a battleship. But it will end with victory.

-- a circular formulation in which the war ends when the President says it ends. Which for a President Bush, Cheney, or Giuliani would be: Never. Note also that the Administration repeatedly refuses to set out specific indicators for when the war ends, because, they claim, those indicators would provide a new target for the terrorists. Hence the reluctance of the people, and the courts, to sign off on open-ended extensions of powers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


This wasn't intended to be link-to-old-posts day but that's what seems to have happened. So 2 things. First, with Ed Gillespie back in the White House as Dan Bartlett's successor (Counsellor to the President), Irish people need to brace themselves for an upsurge in strained analogies to Ireland being used to sell Bush's policies. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

And speaking of Bush and Ireland, one of many potential problems with the proposed Green-Fianna Fail coalition lurks in this provision --

It emerged last night that the Greens have accepted that Iraq-bound United States military flights will continue to use Shannon airport and that all new roads planned by the outgoing Government will go ahead.

A compromise on Shannon means that Dáil approval will be required before any non-United Nations mandated military flight will be allowed to land, but this will not interfere with the Americans' current use of the airport, since they now operate on a UN mandate.

But that mandate could be gone in December, especially with the Iraqi government showing further signs of implosion today. If the US loses the UN mandate, would the Greens vote against Dáil approval for further US flights, and would they leave a government that won such a vote despite their opposition?

The hair of the dog pour deux?

We wondered about this. Saw a link in a few places to video of a supposedly drunk Nicolas Sarkozy. Surprising because Sarkozy is generally seen as having a rock-solid reputation as a teetotaller, and this in the context of considerable media focus on his messy personal life. So now --

A Belgian newscaster has apologised for suggesting French President Nicolas Sarkozy was drunk during a news conference at last week's G8 summit.
A clip of the incident, posted on the YouTube video website, has been watched hundreds of thousands of times.

It shows Mr Sarkozy, who insists he is a teetotaller, appearing short of breath and euphoric before reporters.

Belgian broadcaster RTBF said presenter Eric Boever asked the French embassy to convey his apologies to the president.

Boever presented footage from the opening moments of Mr Sarkozy's news conference following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the comment that "apparently he had more than just water to drink".

The meeting with Putin was the day before George Bush's mysterious G8 Friday morning illness episode -- during which his first visitor was Nicolas Sarkozy. Hopefully just a meangingless semi-coincidence, because the last thing the world needs is 2 un-dry dry drunks at the top.

Nobody could have foreseen a 2nd attack on the Samarra mosque

AFP/Dia Hamid; caption

Except that they could have.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Abyss

AFP/Azulai Meir; caption

It's not that the Palestinian territories lack for signs of how things are getting worse every day but the above was particularly bad: a jeep painted to look like a press vehicle and used to gain an element of stealth in an attack by Palestinian militants on an Israeli border post. Along with the extended kidnapping of Alan Johnston, indicative of the fact that extreme elements in Gaza see no value in good will from outside sources and instead want to pursue the fight on their own terms.

While some commentators on the attack managed to sigh that it would now open the way for more Israeli attacks on press vehicles, it's hard to see how it make much difference. For example, the rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq, probably similar to those used by Israel, allow all guns blazing at any approaching vehicle that looks threatening (e.g. refusal to stop when signalled) -- sometimes leading to the deaths of Iraqi civilians.

Indeed, being in a press vehicle and then an ambulance didn't do Terry Lloyd any good, nor was it insurance for journalists in Lebanon last year. So the Palestinian incident says more about their state of mind than likely changes in Israeli behaviour.

Damned spot

It's telling that the one specific episode which Tony Blair mentioned in his media critique speech (the "feral beasts" speech1) as an example of how "the facts" get obscured in a media frenzy is Iraq-related. Specifically --

It is also hard for the public to know the facts, even when subject to the most minute scrutiny, if those facts arise out of issues of profound controversy, as the Hutton Inquiry showed.

I would only point out that the Hutton Inquiry (along with 3 other inquiries) was a six month investigation in which I as Prime Minister and other senior Ministers and officials faced unprecedented public questioning and scrutiny. The verdict was disparaged because it was not the one the critics wanted. But it was an example of being held to account, not avoiding it. But leave that to one side.

The Hutton-Butler report sequence, albeit in their delicately phrased way, left plenty out there for people who doubt Blair's good faith on Iraq, not least in the finding that WMD intelligence was assembled to make the strongest case possible that Iraq had WMD (as opposed to a consensus case) and that the Cabinet did decide to put David Kelly's name into play through a game of 20 questions with the media. So it's odd that Blair brings that episode up with a sense of vindication, although it could also be a guilty conscience.

1 The speech is also reproduced in the WSJ Online.

Plucky little Iraq

The Wall Street Journal Europe editorialises (subs. req'd) about the election in Belgium ("The Accidental Country") --

Mr. Leterme [incoming PM] proposes to address the main source of tensions. About six million Flemish subsidize four million Walloons with billions of euros a year through transfer payments. Such generosity could exhaust a homogenous society, let alone a linguistically riven one like Belgium.

This would be the same Wall Street Journal which thinks that tinkering with federal-type arrangements, as in an oil law that would see oil-rich areas subsidise the others, can help hold together a non-exhausted Iraq -- a place that unlike Belgium, does not have the advantage of prosperity and peace. The Journal concludes --

Difficulties aside, Belgium is a useful test case for other multiethnic European nation-states with similar problems.

And indeed a test case for any project aiming at holding multiethnic societies together even under the most favourable circumstances.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The reserve army of the undocumented

Pentagon news release -- A senior defense official expressed hope today that a provision in the stalled immigration bill that would have allowed some undocumented aliens to join the military won’t fall off the radar screen.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, provision in the immigration bill was expected to help boost military recruiting, Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said today during a telephone conference with veterans’ group representatives.

The DREAM provision offered a way for high-achieving children of undocumented or illegal residents to join the military and, ultimately, become citizens, Carr explained.

“In other words, if you had come across (the border) with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the U.S. school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said. “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.”

The courts fight back

Here's an issue that won't go away. Can non-US citizens who are resident in the USA be declared enemy combatants and denied the usual access to courts that US citizens would normally have1? The Military Commissions Act (MCA), passed in a pre-election rush last year, said Yes, although some of its spinners were confused about that point 2.

But today an appeals court said No. Someone living in the US, even if not a long-time Green Card holder or citizen, has more habeas corpus rights than the Act allowed.

The unfortunate subject of this case is Ali al-Marri, a Qatari who had been living as a student in the US for 3 months in late 2001 but has been locked up in a Navy prison since 2003. This is an appeals court but the Supreme Court could take the case. That would help clarify for good or ill just what rights the millions of people living in the US with something less than full citizenship have.

UPDATE 5 DECEMBER 2008: The Supreme Court is taking the al-Marri case.

UPDATE 23 JANUARY 2009: Barack Obama orders an executive branch review of the al-Marri case.

FINAL UPDATE 26 FEBRUARY: The result of the above review is apparently a decision to send al-Marri into the civilian court system. While it gets him his day in a real court, it dodges the question of whether the Commander-in-Chief can detain US residents indefinitely, upon which the Supreme Court might have ruled.

1 There's still the issue of whether a US citizen can be declared an enemy combatant. The MCA seems to rule this out, but the Bush Administration has dodged any actual test of it, by moving Jose Padilla into the regular legal system before a court ruling, and getting one dual Saudi-US citizen to revoke his US citizenship in return for release. More legal analysis of al-Marri's case here

2 The subject of this link, Andy McCarthy, has returned to the topic in the light of the al-Marri case. His perspective is that of his latter interpretation of the MCA, that anyone short of a Green Card or US citizen can be denied habeas corpus -- and therefore he's outraged that the appeals court ruled otherwise for al-Marri.

Ironically, the court's verdict is closer to McCarthy's initial rebuttal of claims that the MCA might restrict habeas corpus, when he pointed out that habeas corpus can't be taken away from people who have lawfully weaved themselves into the fabric of society. His mistake was to take this as a synonym for "Green Card", because someone who arrives on a student visa, like al-Marri, could also weave himself into the fabric of society

Why Michigan will stay a blue state

George Bush speaking to students in Sofia today --

And I am excited that all of you have had a chance to go to higher education and that you aspire beyond your current education to achieve new things, new dreams -- Michigan State Law School -- I mean, Michigan Law School,

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Coals to Newcastle

What may be a stupid question is prompted by this news report --

MAHMOUDIYA, Iraq - An apparent suicide car bomber took aim at a U.S. convoy carrying demolition experts on Sunday, collapsing a major highway overpass south of Baghdad and trapping American soldiers in the rubble.

The vehicle detonated beside a support pillar, bringing down an Army checkpoint and a tent that had been on the collapsing span, dubbed "Checkpoint 20" by the U.S. military.

Or rather, two stupid questions. (1) Why does Iraq need outside demolition experts? And (2) what are the odds that someone else would be demolishing a piece of infrastructure that they happened to be passing through?

UPDATE: Later versions of the story have changed the description of the US personnel from "demolition experts" to "munitions officers."

Revisionist running dogs

For those of you old and eccentric enough to have a certain nostalgia for the days of tuning in Radio Tirana on a crackly short-wave radio, the transcript of the Albanian president PM's remarks at the press availability session with the visiting George Bush will serve the purpose. Alternatively, you can read it to see where Borat gets his material.

Connecting one dot

One thing missing from the Mail on Sunday report noting that a plane tied to Blackwater (a "contractor"/mercenary firm working for the US government) and the CIA stopped in the UK last week is that there was a recent prisoner transfer to Guantanamo --

The Department of Defense described the man, Abdullahi Sudi Arale, as "a dangerous terror suspect," in a statement released here, announcing that he had been seized in East Africa and transferred to the US prison.

It said he was one of the leaders of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts, a powerful political movement fiercely opposed to the official government in Somalia, which has been destabilized by violence in recent months.

The evidence is there for anyone to see that extraordinary rendition via British and Irish airports is still going on. It's just that the governments of the respective jurisdictions choose not to see it.

American woman oppressed by religion

If it was a big deal when Nancy Pelosi wore a scarf in Damascus, you'd think it's a big deal when Laura Bush wears a veil in the Vatican. Unless there's a different media standard for Islam and Catholicism. Say it ain't so!

UPDATE 5 JULY: Powerline's "Trunk" notes that the Islamic scarf-wearing extends to top White House staffers, although he doesn't make any link to the right-wing outrage over the Pelosi scarf.

Photo: Eric Draper.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

It must be something they teach in Argentina

REUTERS/Albert Gea

As the caption explains about Lionel Messi's goal above, it's Hand of God Part II. Even in the way that it was followed up by a second excellent goal.

FINAL UPDATE: A sneaky goal that ends up mattering less than Maradona's did, after yet another incredible late comeback from Real Madrid.

Never one but two

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque ;caption

If the thought of George Bush, a man with no sense of the morality of the consequences that have flowed from his actions, meeting Pope Benedict wasn't bad enough, then the above picture shows that there's worse: Karl Rove, architect of the cynicism of the last 6 years, also in the company of the Pope. Maybe Benedict liked the reassurance that evil does take physical form.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Casualty of War

For the Department of Idle Speculation: in the increasingly frequent Friday afternoon departures from the Bush administration, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace will not be renominated for the job, a change of previous plan, and therefore becomes a lame duck for the remainder of his term. In announcing the move, the Defence Secretary Robert Gates seemed suspiciuously reality-based in hinting that someone like Pace was too involved with the Iraq shambles from the start to win a Senate vote.

But ... Pace also wrote a letter on behalf of Scooter Libby before his sentencing hearing, an unusual insertion of a uniformed man into what is a political case, and which put Pace in very partisan company. Could that have been the last straw for Gates?

UPDATE: A comical critique of the Pace decision by Powerline's "Hindrocket" --

In other words, the administration needed a new nominee because the Democrats would have turned hearings on General Pace's renomination into a media circus. This highlights, I think, the distorting effect that the Democrats' control over Congress is having on Executive Branch staffing.

Note how the Democratic control of the Senate, and the requirement to get nominees confirmed by that Senate, is "distorting."

Not being the told the news

The US immigration bill died, for now, in the Senate last night. George Bush woke up this morning and presumably, if he didn't hear the news the night before (given the +6 time zone), was told about it this morning. Why then is his radio address, taped for broadcast on Saturday, written as if the bill is still being debated in the Senate? This took place in the context of his mystery bug at the G8 summit, which his spinners were eager to downplay --

MS. PERINO: And he taped his radio address.

MR. BARTLETT: Oh, sure, he taped his radio address this morning. I think that's an indication of how he feels

Indeed it is.

Getting notions

Today's Times (UK) reports on accusations circulating in Lithuania about the treatment of children of Lithuanian immigrants in the Republic of Ireland. At first they sound bizarre --

Rimante Salasevicuite, the Lithuanian Ombudsman for Children, made the claims after visiting Ireland last week to study the conditions in which an estimated 120,000 of her countrymen and women live. "In one Irish town Lithuanian children are beaten only because they are more beautiful than Irish ones," .... Aruna Teiserskis, director of the Lithuanian Association in Ireland, who met Ms Salasevicuite, said: “Her comments have probably been a little overhyped, but we have had parents giving us examples of what I would consider racist attitudes.

"Children have been prevented from speaking Lithuanian. We don’t want our children to lose their language. And violence does happen in some areas, usually after school. We like to dress well and perhaps that annoys some Irish, who expect immigrants to look poor."

It's not encouraging for the veracity of the claims that apparently the Irish ambassador couldn't get anywhere in terms of names of towns or specific instances where the alleged behavior happened. But the latter analysis excerpted above does perhaps have the ring of truth to it, though again may be based on only a couple of instances. As the article notes, immigration is an issue that never surfaced in the election campaign just past, and it usually gets in the news in the context of workplace exploitation cases rather than ethnic tension. Maybe an economic slowdown will change things.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A friend indeed

George Bush laughs off a serious allegation about his friend Prince Bandar, a friendship that goes back to the late 1960s (which is coincidentally about the time that the benchmark oil market shifted from West Texas to the Middle East) --

And Prime Minister, if I could ask you about another matter: Were you aware that your government was approving payments to a friend of President Bush's as part of British Aerospace's kickback system, and is that why you suspended a fraud inquiry?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Glad you're answering that question. (Laughter.) A friend of mine. (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: On the point you asked me -- let me make one thing very clear: I'm not going to comment on the individual allegations. And a lot of this, of course, relates to things that go back to the 1980s.

But let me just make one thing very, very clear to you: This investigation, if it had gone ahead, would have involved the most serious allegations and investigations being made of the Saudi royal family, and my job is to give advice as to whether that is a sensible thing, in circumstances where I don't believe the investigation (inaudible) would have led anywhere, except to the complete wreckage of a vital strategic relationship for our country in terms of fighting terrorism, in terms of the Middle East, in terms of British interests there. Quite apart from the fact that we would have lost thousands -- thousands -- of British jobs.

An exchange that encapsulates much about the Bush-Blair relationship -- Bush dumping a hot potato into Blair's lap, and Blair apparently not understanding how it looks when the guy who by all accounts was egging Bush on his war plans for Saddam might have skimming off the top of defence contracts. An interesting incentive system to say the least.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yet another deadline

It's not widely publicised that the multinational forces in Iraq are operating under a UN resolution, passed after the invasion.1 This resolution has provided an element of legitimacy, to the extent that one can speak of such a thing in this context, to what is essentially a US/UK military presence, and it has served other narrower purposes, such as, for example, allowing Ireland to claim that it is only allowing Shannon to be used as a transit stop for US military flights because of the UN resolution.

Anyway, enter into the fray the political party of Moqtada al-Sadr, the all-purpose scapegoat for the failures of the US policy in Iraq, to --

[push] through a resolution in parliament requiring the Baghdad government to obtain legislative approval for future extensions of the U.N. mandate for U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

The current mandate doesn't expire until Dec. 31, but Tuesday's action added to the debate — in Baghdad and Washington — over whether and when U.S. troops should be pulled out.

Now perhaps there'll be enough of a coalition to ram through the legislative approval in time, but if not, the Bush bluff that he'll only stay in Iraq with the affirmation of the Iraqi government would be called.

UPDATE 1 SEPTEMBER: An op-ed in the New York Times notes the problem.

1The full sequence of post-invasion resolutions is explained here.

The G8 Curse

World leaders began assembling for the 2006 G8 summit began on the 12th of July. That's the day that Israel invaded Lebanon. World leaders began assembling today for the 2007 G8 summit. That's the day that Turkey launched an apparently large military incursion into northern Iraq.

A coincidence? Perhaps. But military strategists in the Middle East may have learned that these pointless summits are a perfect time for a geopolitical stunt, as everyone in the major capitals is out of their offices and the agenda is already packed with G8 items. In addition, with the changing White House story line on whether Turkish troops had actually entered Iraq today, it seems that their information system becomes CNN, adding to the scope for confusion.

So maybe 2008 summiteers -- for God's sake, stay at home. Or, if it goes ahead and you happen to be in the Middle East on the G8 arrival day: duck.

UPDATE: Even though the original Turkish incursion was apparently smaller than 1st reported, the border is seeing a lot of action every day.

No shame

Today's Wall Street Journal lead editorial, recounting its history of editorial independence in the context of the takeover bid from Rupert Murdoch --

The 1990s were especially controversial with the Journal's reporting about Whitewater and Bill Clinton's ethics, and more than one liberal thought he could mute Bartley's campaign in the wake of the Vincent Foster suicide. But the Bancrofts and Publisher Peter Kann stood up to the pressure.

The "reporting" to which they refer took place in their editorials -- the paranoid scandal-mongering therein clearly not meeting the standard for the Journal's (excellent) actual reporters to report on. And it took the form of a series (Roman numerals, if memory serves us right) of "Who is Vince Foster?" editorials, each leaping to the most tendentious interpretation of Foster's relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. It didn't stop even after Foster committed suicide, hounded by the Journal, and it didn't stop even when it was clearly feeding even loopier theories about Foster's life and death (e.g. ludicrous claims of an affair with Hillary or that the Clintons arranged his "murder").

If that's what Murdoch would endanger with a takeover, bring him on.

Congratulations Tanzania

For now been seeing as a sufficient diplomatic plum that George Bush has decided to put a crony in as US Ambassador --

The President nominated Mark Green, of Wisconsin, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Republic of Tanzania. Mr. Green currently serves as an Attorney at Law at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. Prior to this, he served as a Member of the United States House of Representatives. Earlier in his career, he served as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Mr. Green received his bachelor's degree and JD from the University of Wisconsin.

Usually African countries get a career State Department employee. Here's one site devoted to Mark Green's recent career in Wisconsin.

Another day in the Celtic Tiger

Irish Times (subs. req'd) -- The Dublin City Council press office has defended its use of female models to promote council projects, on the basis that tabloid newspapers would not cover the event if models were not present ...

In April two young women wearing short denim skirts and tight vests were hired by the council to pose, holding a large pipe, alongside Minister for the Environment Dick Roche, to publicise the council's water mains replacement programme.

A few days later the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Vincent Jackson, posed with lingerie model Katy French to promote the launch of the city's new eco-friendly taxi service.

Six Day War

BBC Radio 4 is doing a 7 day series in 15 minute segments. Well worth a listen.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

When the vice president does it, it's legal

Since it's now conclusively established that the CIA identity of Valerie Plame was classified information, Dick Cheney's statement of support for the convicted and sentenced Scooter Libby, in referring to Scooter as "a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens", makes clear his view that there is no such thing as classified information as such, but only secret information that can be made public when it supports the political priorities of the incumbent administration.

Incidentally, one interesting thing about the judge who sentenced Libby today is that he also sits on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the court that issues warrants for telephone taps related to international intelligence gathering. This is the court that George Bush decided to ignore when setting up his own warrantless surveillance program -- an experience that may have have given the judge an appropriately jaundiced view of the administration's commitment to the rule of law. Hence the tough line on Libby?

The real hero

So apparently the Leader of the Free World is himself a victim --

In my second inaugural address, I pledged America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. Some have said that qualifies me as a "dissident president." If standing for liberty in the world makes me a dissident, I wear that title with pride. (Applause.)

That may be the most twisted and narcissistic claim to bravery that has ever been made.

UPDATE: In the same speech, Bush said --

Still, some argue that a safer goal would be stability, especially in the Middle East. The problem is that pursuing stability at the expense of liberty does not lead to peace -- it leads to September the 11th, 2001. (Applause.)

In other words, the claim that US policies led to 9/11 -- the same claim that when made by Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul was distorted by the Fox News/Giuliani crowd into the emotive claim that US brought 9/11 on itself.

Monday, June 04, 2007

One definition of the European frontier

National Review's Victor Davis Hanson, reporting from Greece --

How that need for friends [of Greece] translates is also strange: a willingness to take a very unEuropean taking to Putin, the fellow Orthodox, who promises gas and oil deals as a price to nodding to his harangues.

So the Russians, although Orthodox, are not European. Who else has he classed this way? Serbs, eastern Ukrainians? It also makes for a very strange notion of Christian history, as played up by the likes of Victor Davis Hanson, in which it was the eastern churches that were on the frontline against Islamic empires.

Even Gitmo has technicalities

One possible explanation for the surprise decision at the Guantanamo Bay tribunals today to throw out the case against 20 year old Omar Khadr is that the legislation passed last year to set up the tribunals was trying to be too clever by half, in seeking to make the Gitmo setup slightly constitutional but covering the possibility that Gitmo could be shut entirely in the future, meaning that the same system would be needed to cover terrorism suspects held in the United States.

Hence the change in definition of who can be tried from "enemy combatant" to an "alien unlawful enemy combatant" -- a definition apparently designed to ensure that it would allow non US citizens (including Green Cards) to be held under the military detention system on US territory (why else specify aliens?). But, in an oversight that bears all the hallmarks of Bush administration incompetence, the military judge pointed out that the government had forgotten to reclassify the detainees from the old definition to the new one: case dismissed.

If the Bushies were smart, they would spin this positively as neat disposition of an embarrassing child soldier case (as Khadr was when he committed his alleged offences) and an example of tribunal independence. More likely, they will stomp their feet and look to find a scapegoat for the problem.

UPDATE: Legal analysts suggest that the key missing word for existing detainees is "unlawful" rather than "alien." Which prompts the question of how a tribunal that is by construction prior to the military commission is going to make a judgment as to whether a combatant broke the law, and if so, what law? Also, as pointed out by by one of the defence counsels, one problem here is that the legislation governing the tribunals was rushed -- part of a pre-election stunt by George Bush in the runup to the 2006 mid-terms.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pundit theft

Earlier this week, David Brooks began his New York Times column, titled Vulcan Utopia (subs. req'd) as follows --

If you’re going to read Al Gore’s book, you’re going to have to steel yourself for a parade of sentences like the following:

“The remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way — a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.”

Now take a look at Andrew Sullivan's Sunday Times (UK) opener --

In America, reason is under assault. How do I know this? The same way all reasonable people know anything. Al Gore has written it in a book, The Assault on Reason, with no pictures on the cover. He has also unloaded himself of enlightening profundities such as the following: “The remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the reestablishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way – a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.”

Of course he could have read the book and independently zeroed in on that sentence. But he was surfing the web earlier this week for blog posts about the book -- a possible alternative to reading the actual book (which of course might vindicate Gore's complaint). And he did read Brooks, so surely blogger ethics demands a hat-tip for that lede?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dutch kidney donor show is hoax

At this point, one should begin with the assumption that anything that generates a media frenzy is a stunt, as the kidney donation competition turns out to be [here's a link to the TV channel and the show]. Which is why it can be a mistake to devote serious discussion show time to such incidents. Maybe RTE's Primetime will do an update? Remember the Belgium breakup hoax last year? Something about the Low Countries sense of humour, perhaps.

Leader of the free world

One could pick just about any set of extended George Bush utterances to illustrate someone completely out of his depth. Here's a section of his remarks to the foreign press before his trip to Europe for the complete waste of time that is the G8 summit --

I'm looking forward to two things in Italy -- obviously seeing His Holy Father. Sometimes I'm not poetic enough to describe what it's like to be in the presence of the Holy Father. It is a moving experience. And I have not been in the presence of this particular Holy Father. Obviously, three visits with the last great man, and I'm looking forward to this. I'm looking forward to hearing him. He's a good thinker and a smart man. I'll be in a listening mode.

And then Prime Minister Prodi, with whom I've had a long relationship. I knew him when he was the head of the EU. I can remember, fondly remember riding my mountain bike as hard as I could as he was jogging along the beaches in Georgia, needling him on the way by -- a sign of close friendship. We've got a good relationship. He's having to make difficult decisions in Afghanistan and I hope my visit will help boost his courage in doing the right thing in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: It got worse in the Q&A. Has anyone told him what "catholic" means? --

I believe [Pope Benedict] believes -- look, I don't want to put words in his mouth -- I hope he believes in the universality of freedom, because I certainly do. In other words, freedom is not just a Western ideal. It's just not the ideal that some people -- it's universal in application. I will remind him of my firm belief that freedom is not only universal, but history has proven democracies tend not to war with each other, and that the best way to yield the peace, something I long for, is to help people become free.

I hope to get him talking. He's a sound thinker. I've read one of his works, and I'm looking forward to hearing this good, decent, honorable man share some thoughts with me. And I go in open-minded, and I'm willing to listen.

Which work has he read? The Regensburg speech?

And, he offered the Germans advice on wood --

Wouldn't it be remarkable when we have a breakthrough to develop fuel to run our automobiles from wood chips? You got a lot of wood in Germany. I'd be glad to share that technology with you.

FINAL UPDATE: If you have the fortitude, Holden has collected more of them.

One less boy soldier

Pablo Martinez Monsivais -- Associated Press via Washington Post

White House Counsellor Dan Bartlett will resign, effective on the 4th July. The above picture shows him (on the right) during one of his boss's SURPRISE! visits to Baghdad. He's resigning from a top White House position aged just 36, having in effect spent his entire working life with George W. Bush. And then they say that the inner White House circle is not a bubble. For their love of Winston Churchill comparisons, none of them went out and had a real life like Churchill did before events found them -- and before Dan and his boss decided to play God in Iraq.

He thinks that he's the wind of change

An interesting thing illustrated by Tony Blair's South Africa speech is that he sees an arc linking his younger liberal international activist self with the US/UK intervention in Iraq. Of course he doesn't make it quite that explicit, but what else could he mean in this section of the speech dealing with the lessons of the anti-apartheid struggle? --

In the 1980s my party, the Labour Party, struggled purposefully in Britain to put the case for sanctions. But I remember also how far we were from much conventional wisdom which told us: we didn't understand, South Africa would collapse if apartheid ended, we were meddling. We know now these arguments are misplaced, even ludicrous. But not then.

There is a lesson here. Progress does not come from the cautious. It isn't born of the status quo. It tends to challenge conventional wisdom. It rarely is the product of refraining; nearly always a consequence of sustained action against the odds. It accepts the pain of transition. It never yields to the notion of "the way things are".

No wonder he's able to sound as passionate and yet as detached from mistakes as George Bush.